She felt none of those ups and downs of spirit which beset so many people without cause; never—to paraphrase a recent poet—never a gloom in Elizabeth-Jane's soul but she well knew how it came there; and her present cheerfulness was fairly proportionate to her solid guarantees for the same. The Mayor of Castrbridge is set in the county of Wessex, a land that has relied on the beliefs of the farming folk for centuries. It's also his assholery, because he started the fight in the first place, and that's what plagues him through the book: he's just a dick. This Hardy tragic novel, published in 1886, was set in the first half of the 19th Century. Is there truly more pain than happiness in the world? So it has been with this sentence from The Mayor of Casterbridge, which I had to read in school. The next big emotional entanglement he makes after 18 years of celibacy is with…. He agrees to re-courting Susan before remarrying her so that Elizabeth may not have any suspicions about their ghostly past.
You know people like this, right? It will stay with you for a long time. So then, just before Christmas I saw or heard something about this book and that it was about a man who sells his wife and baby daughter at a fayre and immediately I thought that sounds intriguing and off I popped to pick up a copy. The unattended bird has died of starvation. Henchard arrives at Casterbridge to attend the wedding, and is scolded by Elizabeth-Jane for having told her a lie about her parentage. This Oxford World Classics edition stifled me with its academia and I confess I skipped the intro. Henchard is a tragic figure, doomed not only by the character flaws of which he is only too aware, but also by a malignant, inescapable fate.
There are many things that have stayed with me from those days, but little quite as much as this book. I wonder if I would have the same conclusion if I read it again. Now Hardy had returned home, and he was there to stay, as he proved through his attempts to become part of the town. He is often despicable yet oddly sympathetic and I could not help but wish things will work out well for him, but his worst stroke of luck is probably to find himself in a Thomas Hardy novel so that is not going to happen. The first two chapters of the novel and the very last serve as a frame for the core of the novel's story.
Instead of giving them to her, Jopp reads the letters aloud at a tavern. Henchard forbids him to have anything to do with his daughter Elizabeth-Jane. After wandering about different places, he comes to the ancient town of Casterbridge Dorchester , and settles down there. Many books start at the end, then go back and tell you how they got there. Henchard returns with daughter Eliza-Jane years later when the girl is 18. In these files, he found an article describing the sale of a wife by an auction.
If Thomas Hardy's Wessex region was a real place the British government would probably have to nuke it as nothing but misery seems to go on there, as recounted in , , and other bleak-fests I am excluding here because I find it quite cheerful by his melancholic standard only a few tissue papers required instead of a whole box of Kleenex. The rumors about Lucetta's past relationship with Henchard start flying around. It is only the pitfalls and vicissitudes of their lives that provide interest and suspense. When he arrives at Farfrae's house for the reception, Elizabeth-Jane refuses to see him, because she is still angry that he lied to Newson in an attempt to keep him from her. After spending several weeks immersed in research, Hardy began to write the novel that would become in the summer of 1884. The writing's quite good, the story held my interest, but jeez louise, this is bleak stuff! He quickly built his home, Max Gate, in town.
The Mayor of Casterbridge is a beautiful and moving novel in spite of its bleakness. The simplicity of this tale makes room for its psychological richness--not the same as complexity, just depth. Don't get bogged down in narrative tangents. The main cast of characters is small enough that we really get to know them well and care about them: Susan and Elizabeth-Jane become part of the story again as does a Scottish traveller looking for work, Donald Farfrae and a young lady, Lucetta Templeman, who gets caught up in something that will come back to haunt her in a big way later in the book. Henchard is deeply grateful, and he convinces Farfrae to remain in Casterbridge and become the manager of his business, even though he had already given the position to Jopp. Even when whole chapters are devoted to Donald Farfrae, Lucetta Templeman, Elizabeth-Jane, or some of the minor characters, Michael Henchard's strength of character lingers on each page like bass notes of impending doom.
He comes to Casterbridge in search of his wife and daughter. The novel tells of the rise and fall of , who, starting from nothing after abandoning his wife and daughter, gains prosperity and respect and is reunited with his family only to lose everything through his own wrong-headedness, his vengeful nature, and a spate of bad luck. This isn't a very optimistic view of the world. Henchard is on the verge of winning when he comes to his senses and gives up. As one can see, too often scandal can end in tragedy, as in the case of poor Michael Henchard. I'm sure if I just try a little harder, we can have a good relationship. Meanwhile, the daughter born by Henchard, whom she had brought with her, dies.
As the book opens, he Michael Henchard, the Mayor of Hardy's blazing character study auctions off his wife for five shillings in a fit of drunken pique. He even opens his heart to Farfrae and tells him about his relationship with Lucetta and how he would have to refuse her and marry Susan due to his moral duty towards Susan and Elizabeth. But she is won over by his business rival, Farfrae, who secretly marries her. Almost twenty years later, a drastic change, this Mr. Over the course of the following years, he manages to establish himself as a respected and prosperous pillar of the community of Casterbridge, but behind his success there always lurk the shameful secret of his past and a personality prone to self-destructive pride and temper.